Today is April Fool’s Day, and, honestly, I wish everything happening in the world right now with COVID-19 was just an April Fool’s joke and none of it was real. No one was sick. No one was dying. No one was losing their jobs. As I look at everything that is going on, it is just so sad. It can be extremely depressing, especially if you are stuck indoors and you let yourself be overwhelmed with constant news updates telling you the same bad news OVER and OVER...
Due to this feeling of impending doom, many people on social media are coping with this disaster with LAUGHTER! They are sharing funny memes that make jokes about our current situation even though every single one of us understand that this situation is in fact very serious. Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve seen.
Although sometimes I feel guilty for laughing when such terrible things are happening, science tells us that this is actually a very good coping mechanism.
The process of laughter involves many parts of the brain. The frontal lobe is involved in social emotional responses, the occipital lobe helps understand the situation, and the hypothalamus has been shown to be a major contributor to the loud, uncontrollable laughter.
Thanks to all of these parts of the brain and multiple more, our body instinctively produces laughter. In doing this, laughter provides a safety valve that shuts off the flow of stress hormones and the fight-or-flight compounds that swing into action in our bodies when we experience stress, anger or hostility. (three emotions most of us are feeling quite a bit of recently)
These stress hormones also suppress the immune system, increase the number of blood platelets and raise blood pressure. When we're laughing, we are boosting our immune systems. That laughter helps our body to boost natural killer cells that destroy tumors and viruses. Our body also increases Gamma-interferon (a disease-fighting protein), T-cells (a major part of the immune response), and B-cells (make disease-destroying antibodies). Laughter helps our body to calm down and strengthen itself.
In Ecclesiastes 3:4 it tells us there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. When I first read these lines... all I can think of is the scene from Footloose where Kevin Bacon is trying to get John Lithgow to let him dance with his daughter.
BUT this applies to OUR SITUATION in a very real way. We need to understand what is going on and have compassionate hearts for those who are sick or have lost loved ones. (a time to weep) But we also need to think of our own health and well-being while we are staying home in order to protect the most vulnerable. (a time to laugh) It is possible to spread the good news of Christ and Christianity through joy and laughter in this time of despair.
When I started thinking about April Fool’s Day and laughter, I thought of my friend Gordon’s favorite Saint, St. Simeon the Holy Fool.
If you’ve never heard of him, MAN, you should read about the CrAzY things that he did. But for now I’ll give you a brief synopsis:
St. Simeon was a holy monk who, while in monastic seclusion, felt God calling him to serve in the city of Emesa. St. Simeon of course listened to God’s call, but Simeon asked God if he could do it in a way that the people of the town would not thank him. He didn’t want the praise. The solution, he acted like a lunatic! He entered the town dragging the carcass of a dead dog, he would go to the church and extinguish candles, and he would scoot around town on his bum. Everyone thought him a fool! But while all of this was going on, Simeon was feeding the hungry, and healing possessed people by his prayer. He even reprimanded people who refused to obey the Gospel. He was making an impact. He was helping so many people, all while acting like a complete fool.
I don’t expect any of you to scoot around town on your bum (though you’re stuck at home, feel free to do it there), but he is an interesting Saint to look at. How can we be like St. Simeon? During this time of being stuck inside, we can choose to not take ourselves so seriously. We can laugh and find joy. We can connect with others on a real personal level, whether that’s your family in your own home or others through a safe method of communication like FaceTime or Skype. Even while we are laughing, we can still serve the people in our community who need it.
We can donate funds to foundations who are helping out through medical necessities or providing food to children who can’t get food from school like they usually do.
(Great list of foundations here: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=7779)
We can share our gifts/talents/silliness with the wider world through the internet, to help bring a smile or a laugh to those who might be really hurting right now. The doctors and nurses are doing everything in their powers to keep as many people healthy and alive as possible. They are using scientifically proven methods and medicine. But you and I can help too by sharing the medicine of laughter with those who are physically healthy, but mentally and emotionally having a difficult time these days.
To do my part, here’s one more fun meme to brighten your day. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay strong. Know that our God is in control.